Journeys Ancient and Modern: The Writings of Ibn Battutah and Tim Mackintosh-Smith.

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Buckton-Tucker, Rosalind
Journal Article
A work of travel literature, in the modern sense, is not a specialist study but a mix of history, geography, sociology, anthropology and more as experienced by the author. Enduring works of travel literature provide, additionally, the sense of a personal quest and a measure of entertainment. This is true of the writings of one of the most famous Arab travellers, Ibn Battutah, whose 14th century journeys through the Islamic world and beyond spanned nearly thirty years. However, some early writers exaggerated or even fabricated adventures to satisfy readers’ expectations, and, in the absence of proof, the accuracy of their accounts may be questioned.For example, doubts were cast on whether Ibn Battutah had in fact reached China as he reported. Thus, a modern phenomenon is the ‘replica’ traveller who seeks to recreate a historical journey because of a fascination with its story and curiosity as to how far it is achievable and authentic. Part of Ibn Battutah’s travels were replicated by the Arabist and writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith, whose trilogy of works on his travels complements Ibn Battutah’s account and verifies many of his claims. This paper will discuss the contributions of both Ibn Battutah and Mackintosh-Smith to travel literature in very different eras, and show how their works provide not only a comprehensive account of the countries and cultures encountered but also an insight into their character and motivation